Helpdesk Report: Malaria and Rapid Diagnostic Tests



What is the latest evidence on the efficacy of Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) for malaria? What are their reliability, validity, predictive values? Do they work at all times of the malaria cycle in the body? Is their effectiveness affected by temperature, transport, storage or other external conditions? Is there a difference between the different types of RDT?


Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) do not require a laboratory or any special equipment; they are simple to use and can give results as a simple positive/negative result within 15 minutes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), RDTs are adequate to diagnose malaria in febrile patients. RDTs have better sensitivity and specificity than routine microscopy and might be critical in improving the overall quality of malaria diagnostic capacity in routine settings. Demonstration of the presence of malaria parasites is advised before treatment with antimalarial medicines, because diagnosis based solely on clinical symptoms is of poor accuracy and leads to overdiagnosis of malaria, waste of antimalarial medicines, an increased frequency of adverse side effects and increased drug pressure on resistant parasites.


Thompson, S. Helpdesk Report: Malaria and Rapid Diagnostic Tests. Human Development Resource Centre, UK (2012) 17 pp.

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